Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- A Day in the Life
- Why We Chose Nuevo Arenal, by Janet Bradshaw
- Featured Property in Nuevo Arenal: Furnished Condo with Lake Arenal Views $145,000
- Why We Chose Costa Rica
- The Rat Race, by Diana Miskell Turlock
- Documents You Need to Open a Bank Account
- Our July 2012 Expenses
There are three questions people always ask us about living in Costa Rica:
- What is the cost of living?
- How about health care?
- What do you do all day?
On our website, we try to answer these three questions, and we address the latter one in the first article of our monthly newsletter: “What’s Up with the Yeatmans?” On a montly basis, we’re busy. But what’s a typical day like? Obviously, we’re not as busy as we were in the U.S. since we don’t have full-time jobs. In the States, Gloria and I both worked 40+ hour/weeks, me in job placement and Gloria at a university. Most of what we do now, we did after work and on weekends.
- Food shopping
- Doctors visits
- Working on our website
So much of what we did on weekends and evenings in the U.S., we do here anytime, usually during daylight hours. It may take longer here than it would in the U.S. — there isn’t such a thing as one-stop-shopping here. But that’s okay. Part of the fun is the hunt for what we need. We weren’t necessarily looking for easier…we wanted different. Remember, in retirement, you can reinvent yourself if you so choose. We decided to write, read, cook, bake, give tours, nap, volunteer, and go to the beach.
A typical day for me starts at 5:30am when our cats wake us up to be fed. I open the door to a usually beautiful morning, and sweep the porch. At 6am, I feed our cats who have been patiently waiting, and then eat breakfast myself – either a pineapple smoothie or homemade yogurt and cereal, and then check my email and Facebook.
Most days, I meet some friends around 7am and walk 2-4 miles, up and down hills. When I return to the cabina, I am ready for a hot shower. My morning routine continues with cleaning the cats’ litter box and making the bed. On many days, I will then go into the town of San Ramon to run errands – buy groceries, pay my phone bill, go to the Macrobiotica for vitamins or the Farmacia for medications — talk with friends in the Central Park, or attend meetings. Often, I will have lunch in town at the little Soda Kendy in the Central Market – only $1 or $2, depending on how hungry I am. I am usually back at our cabina by 2pm.
In the meantime, Gloria has usually been working on our website or the Community Action Alliance website which she created and maintains on a volunteer basis. She loves spending time in the kitchen, baking bread, making yogurt and natural peanut butter, and preparing dinner. When she’s not busy in the kitchen or updating websites, she often comes into town with me to run errands and attend meetings.
Often, especially in the afternoons during the rainy season, we spend some time napping or reading. We have dinner about 6pm, which is when we also feed our cats and bring then in for the night. Gloria cooks and I wash dishes, a deal that works well for us both. We watch a little television or read after dinner and go to bed around 10pm. We’re busy here in Costa Rica, very busy, but it’s our choice. Everything is our choice. It’s a tremendous opportunity to explore our interests and explore our lives.
by Janet Bradshaw
My husband Scott and I visited Costa Rica for the first time in 2000 and instantly fell in love with the lush, tropical vegetation, breathtaking natural features (rivers, waterfalls, and volcanoes) and tremendous biodiversity. After several more visits in subsequent years, we thought we might consider retiring here. Before making a decision, however, we came in 2009 for 8 months to see if we would enjoy living here as much as we did vacationing. During that time we took a fairly systematic approach to searching for the community that would best suit us. We had learned during previous trips that the beaches were too hot for us for long-term living and we were most comfortable at an elevation of about 1000m (3,300 ft.). After identifying the “good-sized” towns near that elevation we travelled around spending a week or two (and in some cases more) in the areas that interested us (e.g. – San Ramon, San Isidro del General, Orosi, Turrialba, Atenas and Grecia). We were disappointed after about 5 months that, although many of those places had great attributes, none were exactly hitting the mark for us.
Our research prior to coming to Costa Rica had pushed us toward believing that we needed to live in or near the Central Valley so that we would be close to large hospitals, airports and shopping. Ultimately, however, we realized that the Central Valley was not the Costa Rica that we had earlier fallen in love with. For us, the conveniences in the more urban region came at a significant price (traffic congestion, vehicle exhaust, and much less flora and fauna).
We were wondering where to try next when we decided to take a break from our search with a weekend trip to Nuevo Arenal – a place that we had originally thought would be too warm since the elevation is only 600m (less than 2,000 ft). We discovered, however, that the climate was in fact ideal for us — mid 20soC (70soF) — during the day and high teens (60s) during the night. Heating and air conditioning are virtually non-existent and with the lake breezes, unnecessary. The town of Nuevo Arenal is set on the side of beautiful Lake Arenal, and the surrounding countryside is lush tropical forest and rolling pasture. Property owners in the area (non-Tico and Tico alike) maintain their properties with an abundance of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers. The area is breathtaking.
There is a very welcoming (and growing) expat community who love being in the Arenal area. The town is small but has all of the basics – grocery stores, a post office, several lawyers, two banks, a pharmacy, a medical clinic and literally some of the best restaurants in the country! We particularly love Moya’s Place and Gingerbread (read reviews here). Since it is a rural area, there is very little traffic, hence no smog or exhaust smell. For more serious shopping and a recently opened new international airport facility, Liberia is an easy 1.5 hour drive away and construction is currently underway to four-lane the busiest section of that route – the Pan American highway between Cañas and Liberia. Regarding healthcare, our little town has a medical clinic and ambulance service, and there is a hospital in Cañas (45 minutes away). In Liberia, there is a larger CAJA hospital as well as three private healthcare facilities; the San Rafael Arcángel Medical Center, Clinica Biblica’s established medical clinic and the brand new, recently opened, CIMA hospital facility.
The wet and dry seasons in the Arenal area are less distinct than in many parts of Costa Rica and since the rain is spread more evenly throughout the year, everything is always fresh, green and lush – with the same beautiful tropical forests that drew us to Costa Rica in the first place. Lake Arenal provides wonderful recreational opportunities. In particular, we love hiking to the nearby waterfalls, and the lake kayaking is fantastic, with an abundance of birds, monkeys and other wildlife. For us, Nuevo Arenal offers the perfect balance of nearby practical facilities in a natural, tropical setting. We love it! One important note, however, (as Paul and Gloria always say): as with any prospective place to live, you are wise to rent for at least a year before you consider buying.
Lake Arenal views and cool breezes
1-bedroom condo on the second floor
Very private and ready to move into.
Completely furnished, with an alcove for a sofa bed
Veranda faces lovely, well-maintained gardens, the lake, and boat dock
Many birds and fruit trees.
This is a perfect vacation home or retirement home. The complex has only 9 Condos and a few private homes. Wonderful security and shared amenities: swimming pool,cabana and BBQ, workout machines, ping pong table, and covered tennis courts, impeccably maintained.
The may be the most beautiful gated community in Arenal, with lots of extra land to meander through. You could also rent a boat dock, swim, and fish — all within walking distance of your condo.
Anyone interested in the good life will choose to live in this beautiful development, surrounded by old growth trees. Could be rented for income occasionally. A wise investment!
Reference# Res-17 – Click here to contact the realtor for this property.
People often ask, “Why did you choose Costa Rica?” In answer, we often cite the following:
- Stable democracy since 1821 (this may be the biggest factor of all).
- Can drink water in 95% of the country. In some countries, like Mexico, it’s bottled water all the way.
- Energy self-sufficient (85% hydroelectric, plus wind and geo-thermal energy)
- Improving infrastructure (roads, communications, etc.) – we’ve seen the improvements just in the last 3 years.
- High literacy rate (97%)
- 20% of the population speaks English, with the goal of being a bilingual country
- Excellent and cheap transportation system
- No Army so defense funds go to other areas
- Freedom without major restrictions to do, say, and be what you like
- Good national universal healthcare system and affordable private healthcare
- The weather in the Central Valley is outstanding, with comfortable spring-like temperatures. Take a look at our San Ramon climate articles for specifics.
- Costa Rica is SAFER, and has a lower crime rate, than its neighbors, with 10.3 homicides per 100,000, and decreasing.
- It’s a small country, 51,100 sq km (19,730 sq mi) – twice the size of the state of Maryland and just under the size of West Virginia
A BIG advantage of Costa Rica is its small size. Matter of fact, it’s downright tiny, but good things come in small packages. It’s the third smallest country in Central America, measuring only 464 km (288 miles) in length, N–S , by 274 km (170 miles) in width, E–W.
This is not a disadvantage but rather a big advantage. Because it’s small, everything is convenient, usually just hours away. One can actually drive from coast to coast in about 6 hours. When I lived in Puebla, Mexico, it took me 8 hours just to get to Acapulco. I loved living in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico, but it was a long way to the beach, and as a whole, it was a lot more congested. Here, especially if you live in the Central Valley – where 70% of the population lives — everything is close, almost no matter where you live.
by Diana Miskell Turlock
I got my mitts on a North American style women’s magazine this week. You know the type (if you are a woman) — “favorite family dinners”, “easy decorating ideas, “15 ways to avoid colds and flu”, numerous articles on style, family, health, food — it never ends. This and many other similar magazines come on the market every month, if not more – and they aren’t cheap.
It was exhausting reading it – so much so that I was thinking about it while trying to get to sleep last night. I used to enjoy reading these magazines but never was able to achieve everything they told me I should be doing or saving or creating or wearing or baking or decorating or gardening or entertaining …. and so I always felt a bit as if I never measured up to what I was supposed to be.
And that is truly dreadful. Imagine believing that magazines should tell us how to be and how to live our lives. They are fine for the odd recipe or cleaning tip now and again or just for amusement when sitting in the dentist’s office waiting for your appointment.
So I started thinking about how my life now in Costa Rica differs from my life in Canada. I buy clothes at Ropa Americana, a few things at the Multi-Plaza in Escazu, and I’ve also ordered clothing on line, which has worked out well. And I get family and friends to mule me down things we need.
I need bathing suits and shorts, cool tops, nice sandals, pretty cotton dresses, but not the latest suit design. I don’t need winter clothing, spring clothing, fall clothing. I don’t have access to actual English magazines – they are available in Spanish but I’m not up to that level yet and that’s a good thing in this case.
I brought a few cookbooks with me, and bought a Costa Rican cookbook here, so I can make just about anything that is tasty and healthy. Not hard to do with the food available here. On line recipes number in the millions I think so no lack there if I want to look up Asian recipes. Oh, and by the way, I can buy my beloved Asian ingredients in San Jose.
Our rental house is furnished and clean, we have banana trees and mangoes, fabulous neighbors. I take Spanish lessons once a week and yoga/pilates/pool exercises twice a week. We have friends from all over – some are already here, some are on their way down, quite a few are Ticos. We have friends here from Germany, Canada, the USA, Brazil and Bolivia. The weather is terrific. Many social activities are available – our friends in San Ramon organize Beach Days. Lots of local and excellent restaurants. It’s fun to shop in Atenas and interact with Ticos and Ticas. My ears are becoming used to hearing more than just the English I grew up with. I am learning about different customs and foods.
My point? I don’t have to live the trumped up life of magazines any more.
Visit my horse and cattle art at www.dianamiskell.com
Read my Costa Rica blog at http://dianascostaricablog.blogspot.com/
It’s not as easy to open a bank account in Costa Rica as it is back home.
Following are Coopenae’s requirements to open a savings account or CDs, though the required documentation is similar in other Costa Rica banks and credit unions.
- DIMEX (Documento de Identidad Migratorio para Extranjeros), or DUM (old residency card: DUM = Documento Único Migratorio). NOTE: DIMEX will be required once the new law goes into effect on October 1st, 2012.
- A copy of the lease of the house or apartment
- A copy of a local electricity, water, internet etc. bill (proof of current physical address)
- Receipt of payment of source of founds (pension, social security, IRS, etc.)
- Two bank statements of the last 6 months and two bank references.
- Your profile (a short story of what you are working for)
If you have a Business:
- US Personal TaxReturn (1040)
- US CorporateTaxReturn (1120)
- A short story of what your company does/did
For more information, take a look at the following Tico Times article: “Opening a Costa Rica Personal Bank Account”
Last month we shared our monthly expenses for 2012, through June. We thought we would start sharing our expenses on a monthly basis. We track everything, from rent down to tips for the parking guys. So, here is a summary of our July 2012 expenses, as compared to our record low month of June 2012. The difference is a little over $450, a little here and a little there. Our blender went up and since we’re both drinking daily smoothies, we replaced it right away. We spent more on food…not sure why, except we found a new cheese shop in San Ramón and are treating ourselves regularly to this expensive item…but certainly not to the tune of an extra $100…right, Paul? And our health care was higher due my yearly doctor’s appointment with a private specialist.
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For those of you interested in the weather patterns in our part of Costa Rica, we have summarized Paul’s Monthly Weather Reports by calendar year. You can read the summaries for 2011 and 2012-to-date here:
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
Also, check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Money vs. Time
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Fresh Flowers
- My Visit With The Yeatmans, by Joe Tursi, Heredia City
- Two-Month Window of Opportunity to Invest in CDs
- Our 2012 Annual Cost of Living Update
- Inflation in Central America
- From 11.75% to 12.5% Interest on a 12-Month Certificate of Deposit!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service
- How do you define happiness?
- Book Review: Butterfly in the City, by Jo Stuart
- ‘Tis the Season…for Mold and Mildew
- Crime Stats in Costa Rica
- Why retire outside of the U.S.?
That’s all for this month, but we’ll be back in touch soon! If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with your friends. We hope to see you online!
Gloria & Paul Yeatman
San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica